What’s happening with the AMBER Alert system in Utah?

Apr 20, 2020, 10:50 AM | Updated: 10:55 am
Amber Alert...
The Amber Alert for the Idaho children was canceled after they were found safely. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Since September, there have been at least three incomplete AMBER Alert notifications sent to cell phones across Utah that have had little to no information.

Jess Anderson, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner, said he was one of thousands of Utahns woken up at 3:30 a.m. And, like everyone else, the alert only said, “UT AMBER Alert.”

Anderson said there’s a great value in the system, but that after the recent mishaps it’s time to hit pause.

“[This is] a technical issue really when it comes down to it,” Anderson told KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic.

He says that the state has the ability to use the Federal Government’s Wireless Emergency Alert system (WEA) there is a number of limitations that service has.

“After looking at it after those first two mishaps that we had back in September and then in November, we actually did do a deep dive into [the system], and look[ed] at what our vulnerabilities are, and perhaps what our limitations are,” Anderson said.

One of those limitations is knowing if a system change will be effective before broadcasting the message. That’s because his department can’t test the messages before sending it out publicly.

“So even though we thought we had a fix, it really did come down to just a minor [change],” Anderson said. “Basically checking a box of adding the text message into there as well as the header and then sending that out to everybody.”

AMBER Alert Under Review

“All things are on the table to be looked at right now,” Anderson said. “That’s what I called for yesterday and told to told my team, listen, we need to work with our partner agencies, we need to come together as a whole.”

Anderson said another aspect they will be reviewing is about what issues will trigger an AMBER Alert.

“What are the trigger points, what’s the policy, what are the procedures,” Anderson said. “To make sure that we truly understand from agency to agency working together on this to issue an AMBER Alert and send that out to everybody in the community.”

Is it effective?

Anderson said while the WEA System has been paused, there are still a number of ways the Utah DPS can issue the information about an Amber Alert out to the public.

Those other options led host Dave Noriega to ask the question about how effective the system is.

“The AMBER Alert system is not going away,” Anderson said. “We’ll still send it to our law enforcement partners, we’ll send it to social media partners to the media.”

Anderson said one of the things that they will be looking at will be the effective hours that AMBER Alerts will be sent and how effective early morning alerts are.

Hear the full conversation

You can hear the full conversation on the Dave and Dujanovic podcast below.

You can also hear them live on KSLNewsRadio from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday-Thursday.

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What’s happening with the AMBER Alert system in Utah?